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The New York Times: Tropical Storm Erin Heads for Texas

Published: August 16, 2007
Filed at 1:58 a.m. ET

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — Some vacationers packed up while others vowed to wait out Tropical Storm Erin and its torrential rainfall as it headed for flood-weary Texas early Thursday.

Erin was not expected to gain hurricane strength before making landfall Thursday morning, which was why some said they wouldn’t abandon long-planned trips to the coast.

”It’s not a hurricane. I ain’t worried. If they say don’t evacuate, I’m not going to worry about it,” said Matt Sandlin of Amarillo, who was on a beach near Corpus Christi with his family on Wednesday as the wind whipped up and the horizon darkened with clouds. ”Unless I see a shark or whale go flying by, I’m good.”

Gov. Rick Perry ordered emergency vehicles and personnel, including National Guard troops, to the Harlingen and Corpus Christi areas.

”Because storms have saturated much of our state this summer, many communities in this storm’s projected path are at high risk of dangerous flash flooding,” Perry said in a statement.

Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, the top elected official for the state’s southernmost county, urged residents to evacuate trailers and mobile homes on South Padre Island.

Corpus Christi hadn’t asked for any evacuations, said Ted Nelson, a city spokesman, and was keeping only a handful of people at the emergency operations center overnight.

”We’re just advising folks to review their own personal emergency plans and look around your yard and remove any loose items,” he said.

Nelson said that with 3 1/2 months left in the Atlantic hurricane season, the incoming storm was ”a nice little wake-up call” for people to make sure they are prepared for more severe weather.

Some weren’t taking any chances.

”We came out to get as much beach time in as possible,” said John Cullison of the Dallas area, who was vacationing with his family and planned to leave southern Texas Thursday instead of Friday. ”After the hurricanes from a few years ago, you have to take it kind of serious.”

Erin formed late Tuesday as the fifth depression of the Atlantic hurricane season and was upgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday when its maximum sustained speed hit 40 mph. The threshold for tropical storm status is 39 mph.

At 2 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 110 miles southeast of Corpus Christi and about 215 miles south-southwest of Galveston, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Its top wind speed remained at 40 mph.

Erin was moving toward the west-northwest at around 12 mph and was expected to continue following that track for at least 24 hours. Its center was expected to be very near the Texas coast on Thursday morning, the hurricane center said.

Erin was likely too close to land to gain enough wind speed to become a hurricane, with sustained wind of at least 74 mph, said National Weather Service forecaster Tony Abbott in Brownsville. But the center said late Wednesday it could strengthen slightly before landfall.

Isolated tornadoes were possible along the middle Texas Gulf Coast on Thursday, the center said.

Meanwhile, a hurricane watch was issued late Wednesday for a portion of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean as Tropical Storm Dean gained strength, forecasters said.

The watch, in effect for St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe and its dependencies, Saba and St. Eustaties, was issued by local governments. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible in the next 36 hours.

As of 2 a.m. EDT, Dean was centered about 550 miles east of Barbados, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was moving west near 23 mph, and was expected to continue the same path over the next 24 hours.

Maximum sustained winds were near 70 mph. Dean was expected to become a hurricane sometime Thursday, forecasters said. A hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 74 mph.

Out in the Gulf, Shell Oil Co. evacuated 188 people from offshore facilities in the path of Tropical Storm Erin.

A tropical storm warning was posted for the Texas coast from San Luis Pass, about 50 miles southwest of Houston, southward to the border. A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within 24 hours. A tropical storm watch for northern Mexico was canceled.

Three to 8 inches of rain was possible along the middle Texas coast, the hurricane center said, with a storm surge of up to 3 feet above normal tide levels north of where the center makes landfall.

The U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday that 4 million people could feel the storm’s effects.

A series of storms this summer poured record rainfall across Texas and parts of Oklahoma and Kansas, with one July storm dropping 17 inches of rain in 24 hours. Flooding was widespread across all three states. It brought Texas out of drought status for the first time in more than a decade.

At least 16 deaths have been blamed on flooding since mid-June.

In the Pacific, Flossie was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm after sideswiping Hawaii’s Big Island with only intermittent rain and moderate winds.

It was a close call: Flossie approached the biggest and southernmost of the Hawaiian Islands with winds as high as 140 miles per hour earlier in the week, making it a Category 4 storm. If it had made landfall, the powerful hurricane would have been the first to hit the isles since Iniki slammed Kauai in 1992, killing six people.

”The storm that never was,” said Karin Funai as she chatted with friends over coffee at the Pahala Town Cafe. ”This was nothing.”

Hurricane specialists expect this year’s Atlantic hurricane season — June 1 to Nov. 30 –to be busier than average, with as many as 16 tropical storms, nine of them strengthening into hurricanes. Ten tropical storms developed in the Atlantic last year, but only two made landfall in the United States.


Associated Press writers Lynn Brezosky in South Padre Island, Texas, and Audrey McAvoy in South Point, Hawaii, contributed to this report.


On the Net:

National Hurricane Center:

Central Pacific Hurricane Center: and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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